Studio: Focus Features
Director(s): Lorene Scafaria
Cast: Keira Knightley, Steve Carell
Run Time: 101 minutes
Theatrical Release: 06/22/2012
MPAA Rating: R
MPAA Explanation: for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence
Common Sense Says: Last-minute life lessons in poignant romantic dramedy.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a low-key romantic dramedy set during the last few weeks on Earth before an asteroid hits. As characters try to figure out how to cope and identify what matters most to them, there's a fair bit of uninhibited behavior, from excessive drinking to drug use (cocaine, heroin, weed) to casual sex and desperate hook-ups. That said, the movie's focus is much less on that reaction to the end of the world and much more on finding clarity and peace. Two characters have sex (nothing sensitive shown), and many others talk about sex or make sexual advances. Strong language includes "f--k" and "s--t"; violence includes two suicides (one direct and one via hired assassin) and rioting. Despite all this -- and the general sense of bleakness/despair underlining everything -- Seeking a Friend is actually very sweet and romantic.
- Families can talk about how Seeking a Friend for the End of the World depicts people's end-of-days behavior. How does their looming fate impact characters' behavior? Does it seem believable/realistic? What do you think you might do in that situation?
- How do you think the movie might have been different if the world were ending through nuclear war or climate meltdown, rather than a runaway asteroid?
- Are the characters role models? Are they intended to be?
What's the story?
A few weeks before the end of the world, Dodge (Steve Carell) finds himself alone; his wife has abruptly left him. Drifting through his final days, Dodge runs into a neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), whom he has never spoken to before. A lost letter ties their fate together, and they hit the road, Dodge intent on finding his first love and Penny hoping to locate a private plane to get back to her parents in England. While on the road, they encounter all kinds of different people, each choosing to spend the world's final days in his or her own way. Also along the way, Dodge and Penny begin to discover that what's most important may actually be right in front of them.
Is it any good?
Screenwriter Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah's Infinte Playlist) makes her directorial debut with SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, and it's a stunner. Unlike many other romantic comedies/dramedies of recent years, it's actually funny and actually romantic -- heartbreakingly so, since there's no "happily ever after" in store. Scafaria's simple premise has conjured up a world in which even the most mundane behavior somehow becomes infinitely important, or perhaps even funny. (If you had one week left to live, would you mow your lawn? Go to work?)The movie's mood is somewhat bleak but colored with fascinating characters, all of whom seem to have already existed in the margins of the story; they feel alive. Likewise, Scafaria's choice of music is sublime -- Penny carries an armful of treasured LP records with her, even without a turntable to play them -- ranging from the Beach Boys to Scott Wilson. Each song rings with new meaning in this context, and each character choice has huge connotations. When the final choice is made, it means the world.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Although the movie presents a pretty bleak situation, the end of the world forces characters to find a certain purity and clarity in their lives. They must find the thing or person they love best to spend their final days with. Some characters struggle with discovering just what that thing is, while others try to find hope in possible survival. Ultimately, love, companionship, and acceptance are valued above all else.
Role Models: Dodge has mostly drifted through life without taking chances or doing what he really wanted. But over the course of the movie, he learns to live, rather than avoid, the moments as they come. He learns to think selflessly, to take chances, and to grant (and accept) forgiveness. Penny is sometimes flighty, irresponsible, and overly impulsive, but she means well, and she clearly has a warm, loving heart.
What to watch out for
Violence A friendly truck driver thinks Dodge has been sent to kill him (people are hiring assassins to take them out before the end of the world). Shortly after, the driver is abruptly (and shockingly) killed by a single bullet; some blood is shown, and a dead body. Crowds riot, setting fires and causing destruction to people and property; there are gunshots and glimpses of dead bodies. A suicidal man falls on a car without warning (broken glass, a little blood). One character has a bunker full of weapons (and other survival gear). Occasional arguing, and a general sense of peril/despair.
Sex: Two characters have sex fairly early in the movie. Nothing besides kissing is shown, but they talk about it afterward. A character's wife tries to seduce Dodge, but he rebuffs her. In a diner, friendly waitresses and waiters make out with each other and with the main characters; it's implied that an orgy is about to begin. A woman flirts heavily with Dodge, but he isn't interested. Additional kissing.
Language: Strong language includes fairly frequent use of words like "f--k" (written and spoken in various forms), "s--t," "d--k," "p---y," "oh my God," "a--hole," "damn," "dammit," "oh my God," and "tw-t."
Consumerism: Coke products are seen a few times; also Colgate, Dunkin' Donuts, ESPN, and some car models (notably Smart Car).
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Adults drink heavily and do drugs (cocaine, heroin) at a debauched "end of the world" party. They're seen roaring drunk and/or high, and they urge kids to try the substances, too. Dodge drinks cough syrup with codeine over several scenes early on, to the point of drunkenness. Penny smokes marijuana to both help her get to sleep and to wake up. Some cigarette smoking as well.